Sometimes I’ll be wandering through life, going about my work, thinking about the fact that theatre is brilliant and loads of people I know engage with it. Then a second, directly conflicting thought will enter my head. This less welcome notion, is that my passion for theatre is a minority interest.
Stand it up against, say, people who enjoy going out to pubs on a Friday night or sitting in front of Ant and Dec on television on a Saturday and the numbers pale in comparison. The last time I was really aware of these two thoughts was as I walked through Bradford this week on my way to meet the man in charge of the city’s jewel of a theatre, the Alhambra.
On my way to meet the constantly cheery Adam Renton, I passed through City Park, the brilliantly revamped heart of my home city. As I crossed paths with people suited and booted, on their way to office jobs, I reflected that many of them will have absolutely zero interest in going to the theatre. Many of them might think that I am a little weird for attending live theatre shows three, four, on occasion five nights-a-week.
My brother could easily have been one of those suited people I passed that morning – he works in one of the offices in Bradford and can’t for the life of him understand why anyone would go to a building to watch people “pretending” (his description of the art of acting).
Then I met Adam and he told me some staggering numbers. Swan Lake, the much lauded Matthew Bourne all-male version of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, was due at the theatre the following week and 9,000 tickets had already been sold. Nine thousand. You should hear the numbers of tickets already sold for The Lion King, coming to the theatre later this month.
I realised that not only was I far from engaged in a minority activity – I was part of a huge movement of people who love going to the theatre and put their money where their mouth is – regularly – to be part of that group. Theatre is not a minority activity – more people every week go to the theatre than attend Premiership football matches. It is a huge part of the economy and a really important part of our cultural landscape. What’s the point of all this?
Well, it’s useful sometimes to be reminded that you are not doing something that’s some weird little pastime, but something that’s loved by millions. But. There is something else that needs exploring in another column, and I will tackle it properly in my next Arts View.
Very simply, however, it is a message to theatres: it is ridiculous that you are not open on Sundays. A lot of us want to go to theatres, so the people who run our theatres need to make it as easy as possible for us. As I will argue next time...